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How to Play - An Overview
Description of the game
Lawn bowls is an outdoor game in which a ball (known as a bowl) is rolled toward a smaller stationary ball, called a jack. The object is to roll your bowls so that they come to rest nearer to the jack than those of an opponent; this is sometimes achieved by knocking aside an opponent's bowl or the jack. The bowls are not exactly symmetrical- one side is more rounded than the other, causing the bowl to curve to one side as it slows down. This is referred to as the "bias" of the bowl.

The game takes place on a 120 ft. square of closely cut grass called a green. A green is divided into rinks 14-16 ft. wide, generally 8 rinks to a green.
Four types of games can be played:

scclbc-6 (5K) To begin play, a jack is rolled to the opposite end of the rink, and it becomes the target so long as it stops at least 21 meters (68' 10") from the delivery mat. In singles and pairs (doubles) games, each player uses four bowls; in triples each player uses three bowls and in fours each player uses two bowls.

Each player's bowls are distinguished by a design on the side; no two sets of bowls in the world has the same design. Players take turns delivering their bowls. When all bowls have been delivered by both teams, an "end" has been played. Before play begins, the number of ends to be played is decided, 10, 12 or 14 being the most common.

In scoring, each of the bowls of one team nearer the jack at the finish of an end than the nearest bowl of the opposing team counts for one point. The team with the highest number of points at the completion of the specified number of ends is the winner. A game generally lasts about two hours.

Free Lessons
Lessons and bowls are available to new bowlers, free of charge.

Personal Equipment
Shoes: When you become a more serious and regular member, you will want to have a pair of specific bowling shoes. But for all beginners, and many others, all you need is a pair of smooth soled shoes so that you do not mark the green. Tennis shoes, for example, are ideal, as are many walking shoes. If you are buying a new pair, choose white ones so that you don't need a separate pair for white days. As a real newcomer, this is the only must-have equipment item.

Clothing: All white, or cream, clothing is required for tournaments, or matching club shirts. This helps preserve the old traditions of the game - though, of course, many of us wear shorts in summer (even for tournaments) which the old Scots never would have done. On all other occasions, any comfortable clothing will suffice. Because of the heat and glare, a hat or visor is definitely a necessity for most bowlers in many parts of the USA.

Bowls: For beginners and visitors, our club maintain a stock of bowls you may borrow (or rent). But as you play more regularly, you will want your own personal set that you can enjoy, maintain and roll predictably. Each set of four has a unique logo or pattern on them so you can identify your own in any game. One set of bowls will last you ten or more years with just the basics of maintenance and proper storage in their carry case.

Measure/Chalk: Special tape measures exist for bowling to resolve those close calls, as well as spray chalk to mark bowls that touched the jack. Keep these in your pocket, especially when you are playing Vice.

Name Badge: All members of the club are issued personal name badges. Most of us wear them on our hats or visors. While we might know you well, this does help newcomers and visiting club players to get your name right.

Club Equipment
Jack: That little white ball we roll first and spend all our efforts chasing thereafter. Mat: The starting point for every roll of a bowl.

Markers: These vary from club to club, but they are generally white or yellow to mark the boundaries and center of rinks in use that day.

Scoreboard: Traditional as it is, we all enjoy putting the scores up on old-fashioned chalk blackboards.

The Green: The playing surface itself is carefully maintained in all cases. Please always treat the green surface with the utmost care.

History of the Game
Lawn bowling historians believe that the game developed from the Egyptians, dating circa 5,000 BC. The sport spread across the world and took on a variety of forms, Bocce (Italian), Bolla (Saxon), Bolle (Danish), Boules (French) and Ula Maika (Polynesian). The oldest Lawn Bowling green still played on is in Southampton, England where records show that the green has been in operation since 1299 A.D.

scclbc-7 (16K)

Certainly the most famous story in lawn bowls is with Sir Frances Drake and the Spanish Armada. In 1588, Drake was involved in a game at Plymouth Hoe in Devon, England when he was notified that the Spanish Armada were approaching. His immortalised response was that "We still have time to finish the game and to thrash the Spaniards, too." He then proceeded to finish the match which he lost before embarking on the fight with the Armada which he won. Whether this famous story really took place has been heavily debated.

King Henry VIII was also a lawn bowler but banned it for those who were not wealthy as he wanted the workers to spend more time practicing their trade instead of lawn bowling. King James I issued a publication called "The Book of Sports" and, although he condemned football (soccer) and golf, encouraged the play of bowls.

There are competing theories as to etymological origin of the word "Jack" (the small white bowl which is the "target" in lawn bowling), in use since 1611, but the most straightforward theory and the one most flavored is that it appears that Jack in some contexts meant a slightly smaller version of something. For example a jack-rabbit is a little rabbit. In this case a 'Jack-Bowl', was the little bowl, later shortened to 'Jack'.

Set of bowls with jack, C 1920. Note that these bowls are made of wood.

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